More than 755 cities worldwide have hosted the 54-hour business blitz known as Startup Weekend, and on September 12, it will be Charleston's turn. That Friday night, small groups of potential entrepreneurs will form into about a dozen teams to set off on the weekend-long journey from brainstorming to the big reveal, channeling the creative and business skills of the team to create a startup and debut the best product of their peers in just 54 hours.
By day, Startup Weekend organizer Joe Dwyer handles IT at 180 Place (formerly Crisis Ministries), but on the weekends, when there's been one nearby, Dwyer has driven across the Carolinas to participate in Startup Weekend events over the past few years. The competition tends to attract the tech and creative-minded, so Dwyer thought it would be a perfect fit for Silicon Harbor's growing tech sector. Events like BarCamp and various hackathons around town have existed for years, and dovetail nicely with Google-backed Startup Weekend franchise, especially among people who have considered building their own business.
"If you think you want to start a business, but your not sure you want to quit your job and take out a second mortgage on your house, buy a ticket for Startup Weekend and take entrepreneurship for a test drive," says Dwyer
Startups like Foodspotting, Zaarly, and LaunchRock have been spawned from Startup Weekends since its founding in 2007. Foodspotting, a food and restaurant social network, was acquired by OpenTable in 2013 for $10 million.
When participants arrive at the Charleston event on Friday night, they'll each give a one-minute pitch on their best business idea. After everyone votes on the best ideas, teams will be divided up and they'll work all day Saturday and Sunday to research and develop their idea into a business. Saturday afternoon, Startup Weekend's all-star team of 'coaches,' local technology and business movers and shakers, will work alongside the teams, offering guidance where they can. Late Sunday afternoon, the teams make their final presentations in front of another slate of local investors and business owners, who will grill the teams to test their green business chops. The team that comes out on top will land themselves $2,500 in seed investment, three months of free co-working space, and a few hours with an intellectual property lawyer to talk through the fine print.
Dwyer says the events help keep him motivated and hungry for the next big idea.
"I always leave feeling like my battery is charged up," he says. "It always affirms for me that that's what I want to do with my life."
Startup Weekend Charleston takes place September 12 at Lowcountry Tech Academy at 1002 King Street. Tickets are $99 and are available now at charleston.startupweekend.org.